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NIF Responds to Violence in Umm al-Hiran

18 January 2017

In response to the violence during the eviction and demolition of the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran this morning, the New Israel Fund released the following statement:

With many facts still unclear and amidst conflicting reports, we are saddened and disturbed by the tragic and violent outcomes in Umm al-Hiran this morning. We call on politicians and security forces to exercise restraint and allow citizens to exercise their right to protest safely. And we join MK Ayman Odeh and other Israelis in calling upon the Israeli government to establish an independent committee to investigate the events and seek justice for those harmed.

Even before this morning’s events, Umm al-Hiran has symbolized the brutal reality for Israel’s Bedouin communities who live in villages the State will not recognize.  Expropriating and demolishing Arab land and communities while using repressive means against legitimate peaceful protest is a moral failure and a danger to Israel. Moreover, the treatment of Bedouin citizens in unrecognized villages contrasts starkly with the government’s plans for the settlers in the West Bank outpost of Amona, where the government is promising to pay more than NIS 30 million to move the 42 families who built the settlement on private Palestinian land. People protesting the demolition of unrecognized villages are among the most vulnerable in Israel – with great need for legal and physical protection.  We urge the Israeli government to reach a negotiated agreement with the residents of Umm al-Hiran.

New Israel Fund Executive Director in Israel, Rachel Liel, said: “As long as the Israeli government insists that there are two sets of laws and standards, one for Jews and one for Arabs, we will be at war with ourselves. Every Israeli deserves to live in peace and security, without the looming shadow of bulldozers and invading police.”

New Israel Fund CEO Daniel Sokatch said: “We call on the Israeli government and supporters of Israel worldwide to live up to the imperative of respecting the civil rights of Israel’s Bedouin citizens. Rachel and I are especially saddened by the injury to our friend, MK Ayman Odeh, who has worked tirelessly to broker an agreement between the government and the residents of Umm al-Hiran and to build the shared future we all envision.”

MK Odeh delivered a powerful speech at the HaaretzQ with NIF conference in New York in December 2015. In it, he said:

“In the Negev, Arab communities have lived since before the founding of the state, but the Israeli government refuses to recognize their villages….The government plans to strip Umm al-Hiran of its Arab name and its Arab population, and build a new Jewish community called Hiran in its place. This shows an ugly reality and a very hard truth: the village is not being destroyed because of its geography or planning issues. It is being destroyed because its Arab residents are unwanted.”

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